​City of Thornton Revegetated Farm 44 looking south

Northern Properties Stewardship Plan (NPSP)

Frequently Asked Questions

Why does Thornton own properties in Weld and Larimer Counties?
The City of Thornton acquired approximately 21,000 acres of agricultural land and associated water rights in the mid-1980s, with the intention to transfer the agricultural water rights to municipal use. As Thornton grows, it needs to secure water for its future population. In the 1990s, that transfer decree was secured.

Today, Thornton still owns about 18,000 acres of land primarily in Weld County, with additional acreage in Larimer County, which has been leased by Thornton for agricultural use since the acquisitions. In 2025, Thornton expects it will have met the prerequisites established by the decree to initiate water transfers, which will bring that water to the City of Thornton. These transfers will scale up between 2025 and 2065. 

Why does Thornton need to develop a plan for land outside its city boundaries?
Because Thornton purchased water and land in Weld and Larimer counties, the NPSP is a roadmap for Thornton to responsibly manage that land once the water is transferred to municipal use.

The Stewardship Plan is a vision for management and future land use of 18,000 acres--an integral amount of property for the local communities, including Ault, Pierce, Windsor, Severance, Greeley , and Timnath--within the parameters of Thornton's water decree, which includes re-vegetation; dryland farming; and/or suitable non-agricultural uses.

What does "developing a vision" mean?
Growth and change are rapidly shaping northeastern Colorado. By developing a vision, the region can holistically and collectively guide planning efforts at the community, municipal, county, and regional levels. By developing that vision, together, growth can reflect what the region imagines their futures to look like.  

How are you going to develop a plan?
The project approach will focus on a number of activities:
1. Thoughtfully and intentionally engage communities and stakeholders throughout the project;
2. Compile preexisting plans in the region to define the baseline for the vision, growth, and local goals;
3. Work collaboratively to define what the future of the region should look like;
4. Identify challenges and opportunities to address as a region;
5. Identify innovative and practical approaches for the agriculture-to-municipal water transfers over the next several decades; and
6. Based upon the engagement and input, identify the best long-term uses for Thornton's properties.

The development of the Stewardship Plan happens within the parameters of the Water Court decree .

What's the project timeline?
The project will take a couple of years. At this time, we expect the planning work to be complete prior to 2024.

Who are you talking to?
We are engaging a diverse range of individuals and groups who represent Weld and Larimer Counties. These include farmers and ranchers; college and high school students; Spanish speakers and English speakers; home and land owners and tenants; urban and rural dwellers; water owners and water users; suburban communities; county and municipality staff; land managers; hunters and fishers; outdoor enthusiasts ; scientists and agricultural experts; and many more.